By: Christa Meland
On Sunday, Spirit River Community—a four-year-old faith community in Isanti—became a chartered church in the Minnesota Conference.
It is the first United Methodist church to charter within Minnesota in 18 years, the last being Crossroads, which began in Lakeville and now has three other sites.
The Minnesota Conference has 18 worshipping communities and six multi-site ministries (including Crossroads’ three satellite locations) that are less than seven years old. Chartering is a designation that’s achieved only when a church reaches 125 in worship attendance and demonstrates sustainability. When a church charters, it becomes registered within the United Methodist denomination and assumes responsibility for paying apportionments—the share that each local church contributes to support international, national, and local missions.
Chartering also means that Spirit River Community’s family of believers transition from attendees to official “members” of the church—which is particularly significant given that many of them weren’t part of any faith community before finding Spirit River. At a chartering celebration during Sunday worship, people from the congregation stood up and simultaneously took membership vows; through those vows, they promised to do all in their power to strengthen the ministry of the church and committed to participate in its mission and ministry through their prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.
“You are living cornerstones that God is using today and throughout the days ahead to continue to build a ministry in this community,” Dan Johnson, director of congregational development, told people at Spirit River Community’s Sunday celebration. “You’re a flagship church…not just because you’re a brand new church start that’s now chartered but because you’ve developed signature ministries that remind us of why we’re a church.”
Spirit River Community launched in October 2010 and initially had worship services just once a month at a community center. Later, it moved to an elementary school that offered more space and began having weekly worship.
In 2011, with the help of various Minnesota Conference partners, Spirit River purchased a 17,500-square-foot former banquet hall after the building was foreclosed upon—and it has since been housed in that building.
From the start, the congregation has been rapidly growing. Pastor Jim Crecelius estimates that more than 70 percent of first-time visitors keep coming back. And the church has become very visible in the community thanks to its extensive outreach, which includes its signature ministry: the Matthew 25 food distribution. On the second Saturday of every month, with the help of a Cambridge-based nonprofit, Spirit River distributes two grocery bags of food to every individual who shows up at Isanti Middle School, no questions asked. The ministry serves between 250 and 500 people on each distribution day.
The church also hosts community dinners twice monthly that average between 110 and 125 people. It has a food pantry that it opens up to families in need. It offers a recovery group for people struggling with addiction. It has an “Ask-a-Lawyer Day” that invites community members to get their legal questions answered by professionals for free. And it is a host site for court-ordered, supervised parental visitations.
“The United Methodist Church as a denomination is now known in Isanti as a place of compassion and care and service both today and in the years to come,” Big Waters District Superintendent Pam Serdar told the Spirit River Community congregation on Sunday.
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church